152. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Ambassador Anatoliy Dobrynin
  • Mr. Henry A. Kissinger

Ambassador Dobrynin came in as we had agreed at the dinner on April 7th, to get answers to two questions: (1) whether we wanted the summit talks handled through a visit by Kosygin to the United Nations as Head of the Soviet Delegation, and (2) how we proposed to handle the SALT talks. In the latter connection, Dobrynin had told me that it would help him if he could get some advance information so that he could show that he is in direct and close contact on SALT matters with the White House.

I told Dobrynin with respect to the first question that if a summit meeting were to take place this year, we would prefer to handle it outside [Page 472] the United Nations and as a separate initiative. Of course, we would not preclude the Soviet Prime Minister coming here but, on the whole, we would like to take it as a separate initiative.

With respect to the SALT talks, I told Dobrynin that we would present a very comprehensive proposal at Vienna, including qualitative as well as quantitative restrictions. On the other hand, we did not exclude a simple agreement this year. The best way to handle it would be for the Vienna talks to concentrate on comprehensive measures, while he and I would try to work out a limited agreement in the interval. One way might be for a recess to be taken after a few months in Vienna, during which time the President and the Soviet Prime Minister could break a deadlock and then meet to ratify it at a summit. Dobrynin said he understood and he would let me have an answer when he returned.

Dobrynin then reverted to our discussion of two days previously and asked me much the same question about Vietnam that he had already asked. How did we propose to share political power? Were we really willing to have a neutral government? How did we visualize the political evolution? I told him that the situation in Vietnam could only increase the complexity for all countries, and that it would affect our attitude on many subjects, including the Middle East.

Dobrynin then asked me about the Middle East, again making the argument that we were not really pushing as hard on the negotiations as we could. I said, “No, we, not the Soviet Union, made the last proposals.” We were standing by our October 28th position. Dobrynin said the October 28th position is an old story, and we need a new position. I told him that there was no sense debating the problem because the situation was as follows: The President did not really require the Jewish world since he had been elected largely without it and, in this respect, he was freer than any other President. On the other hand, as long as the war in Vietnam continued, he did not want to alienate people with so much influence in the mass media. Therefore, the key to our attitude on the Middle East would be found in the Soviet attitude toward Vietnam. Dobrynin said that he understood this, and he had in fact reported this to Moscow.

I then asked Dobrynin about possible changes in the Soviet leadership. He said he did not think any were likely before the Party Congress, but that it was very probable afterwards. He also reaffirmed that there had been no improvement in Sino-Soviet relations.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box TS 36, Geopolitical File, Soviet Union, Chronological File, 3/69–6/70. Top Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. The meeting was held in Kissinger’s office at the White House. Kissinger forwarded this to Nixon under an April 18 covering memorandum that summarized the conversation. The covering memorandum bears the handwritten comment, “This should have sensitive handling.”